My Dirty Little Secret

Adjusting to France, Life in General, Living Abroad

“I HATE EVERYTHING – nothing is ever just easy,” I am stomping around the house in full tempter-tantrum – Scarlett-style.

MB looks at me silently with no reaction (he has learned to let me just wear myself out…much like one might do with a 3 year old).

He sighs as I continue to slam around being disagreeable.  Could I be enjoying this?!  NO!  Of course not…

“I went to Picard…NOTHING.  Then I tried the Petit Casino – you know, the one that always has them and they didn’t have anything either,” I wail.

“Well,” he says tentatively.  “Maybe at Carrefour?”

“NO,” I say loudly, for some reason feeling satisfied to crush his possible solution.  “I have never seen them there, they don’t carry them at all*!”

MB looks at me, “I could call the stores,” he suggests.

“I guess,” I say, sulkily.  “I don’t know what good it will do, even if we find them we will have to take a tram to go and get them.”  I’m not ready to be mollified yet.  “GAWD!  I just wanted to make crawfish etouffee – I bought all the other ingredients and stupidly took for granted that I would be able to find the crawfish at the stores.”  I’m ranting again and flailing about with drama.  “But NOOOOOOOOOO…I mean, why would a store stock the same merchandise every time?  That would be too easy and convenient for the customers and your country HATES easy and convenient!”

MB retreats into the bedroom with the telephone to call the stores and I am left feeling…meeeeeeeeeeeh…a little ashamed of myself.  I don’t mean to pull out the “country card” but it is certainly the quickest thing to revert to when I’m feeling frustrated.  These are not proud moments

***

“My, my,” My Mother says into the phone.  “You are really living the life, aren’t you?”

I have just finished telling her about our weekend jaunt over to Munich.  There was all-you-can-eat schnitzel and fairy castles, what more could a person ask for?

“I sure hope you are appreciating it,” she continues.

I smile and roll my eyes at the same time (this is the reaction to a special mixed emotion that only my Mother can summon forth – it is simultaneous irritation and amusement).

“I know, Mom,” I reply.  “I do!”

“Well,” she continues.  “I sure hope so…”

I’m waiting for it.  I know what is coming next.

“Because…”

Queue ominous and foreboding thunderclap. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Feeling scared yet?

She goes on, “Your life will not always be like this.”

I sigh into the telephone, unsure of exactly what my response should be.  Do I say, “thanks for letting me know” or “I appreciate the warning?”  Do I pretend that I am still fourteen years old and say, “GAH MOM, you’re such a downer!”  OR do I tell her the truth?

The expat life is great.  I am living in Europe for the first time and enjoying traveling around and seeing all the sights, I have an amazing French husband, and I get to write all day long (sometimes this is awesome and sometimes this feels like I have sentenced myself to a lifelong homework assignment).  I mean, it’s pretty much a Meg Ryan movie over here without all the neurosis (and bad plastic surgery…why Meg, why?).

…Except when it isn’t.

I regularly think about how much I am enjoying my time here and all the cool experiences I am getting to  eat have but sometimes…I hate it.  (EEEK!  I’ve done it now – I’m just waiting for the black helicopters to start circling.) 

Alright, alright, calm down – I don’t hate France, that isn’t it, it’s just that some days I hate being an expat and France gets caught in the crossfire, a convenient thing to blame for a bad day.  The only thing that people hear about is that I get to go to Munich or Italy for a weekend – it sounds so romantic and exciting to have all these European countries at one’s fingertips…and it is.  What they don’t know about is how when I need to get crawfish for a dish I want to make and can’t find it after spending two hours walking around to different stores that I have to wait for my husband to come home and call every supermarket chain in the city because I can’t just do it myself.  I mean, sure, I can speak French but try asking a complicated question over-the-phone with grocery store level customer service (read: no customer service) in a second language…I dare you.   Or how if I want to go and see a movie I have to search to try to find one that hasn’t been dubbed or how if I want to run a quick errand it is impossible because I either a) spend ages looking for parking or b) take public transportation as opposed to the glorious, glorious parking lots of my hometown.  OR how when I am sad or having a bad day I can’t just pick up the phone and call home because it is probably 3 o’clock in the morning.  It can be lonely and it can be alienating, everyday tasks and chores are more complicated and things that are normally really easy aren’t anymore.

Okay, okay so I can hear you rolling your eyes at me and I get it – I’m not this bratty all the time and I know it’s still a pretty sweet deal when you get to travel and learn about a new culture, I realize that my life isn’t hard; but bad days happen everywhere…even in the middle of a romance novel setting.  And while there are certainly some pretty sweet perks to being an expat, it isn’t all roses all the time…usually you will love every minute of it but some days you will have disgraceful temper tantrums about groceries and wish the time zones were the same so you could call your best friend (who, by best friend contract has to agree that you are being completely rational) and tell her about it.

So, the old adage rings true: I should listen to my Mother and remember that my life won’t always be like this.  Some days that idea makes me sad and other days…well, other days it seems alright with me.

 

*Carrefour does actually carry crawfish occasionally but it is in very small, expensive packages and not worth the effort.  Just wanted to clarify so that people didn’t think I was maligning the glorious Carrefour!!! 

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22 thoughts on “My Dirty Little Secret

  1. I need to know first – what is crawfish? And I have just spent three days looking for all the ingredients for my Christmas cake. For the last 7 years I have been buying everything from a wonderful dried fruit and nut stand at the market. On Sunday, I learnt it had disappeared forever. I ended up going to countless stores and buying the ingredients in three different ones.
    And I commisserate entirely about the expat-you-are-so-lucky-living-abroad thing. It does not mean all the other problems disappear by magic. It’s not because I have this fantastic view of the Palais Royal when I look out the window every day that I don’t get winter blues!

    1. Ah yes – ecrivesses – can’t think what you call them in Oz. I lived in New Orleans for a while and like to make my Cajun or creole food and it is SO hard without crawfish – they are a staple item. I’m so happy (? maybe that is not the right emotion) to know I am not alone! I know that you cook a lot too and I’m glad it is not just me who has trouble finding stuff.

      I generally hate to write anything whingy but every once in a while it gets to me. Especially when I read all these things about how being an expat is perfection, haha, not always!! 🙂 Cheers!

  2. Ah, écrevisses! Now I’ll know what word to use when I’m translating menus. We call them yabbies in Australia. They are not quite the same thing but we don’t have écrevisses.

    And I’ll let you into a secret – anything that you find on the Christmas table such as seafood, oysters, foie gras, etc. doesn’t usually become available until the week before Christmas. They store them all up (or don’t fish them) during the first half of December so there won’t be a shortage for Christmas. I’ve learnt this the hard way!

  3. ah your blogs are my guilty pleasure when I should be doing other things!! ha they are very human yet funny and people can relate to it, I read it and felt my shoulders come down in relief, phew I’m not the only one!

  4. ah, I love your blogs! they are a guilty pleasure to me when I should be doing something else! its human yet funny and people can relate to it, I read it and felt my shoulders come down in relief, phew I’m not the only one!

  5. I love your blog. I say, stomp and complain away! I totally feel your pain. While NYC is not nearly as romantic as Europe, it was both a magical and extremely frustrating place to live and I had my fair share of tantrums.

    1. Haha, thanks friend! And don’t you worry – I definitely do my share of stomping and complaining…I just don’t admit it too often. 🙂 Oh, and golly, I can just imagine that NYC would definitely have its frustrating moments. Hope you and the fam are having a great holiday season in Nola!! Smooches!

  6. Wait. He called the grocery stores for you? That. Is. Solovely.
    And I agree, stomp away! I have written about this too from time to time. Yes, I live in Arles but I still have to do laundry and pick up dog poop and worry about financial problems. I just do all of that in a neat place with good food and wine. So tonight I will be making wannabe chili but that’s ok.
    I am emailing you my home phone, so the next time you are lonely and missing home, you can call me. And I am not a big phone talker but sometimes, it has to happen. Loneliness has been the biggest challenge for me (after struggling to express myself as I want)–that is why I talk to my dogs all day (actually helps with both problems). I still think that you should get a dog and just find a dog-sitter for when you travel (my dogs prefer the dog-sitter to us) et basta…but I digress!
    Bisous,
    H
    PS. I don’t know what fascinates me most in Rosemary’s reply–that she actually has a view on the Palais Royale or the word “yabbies.” Love it!

    1. 🙂 Yep – he is pretty lovely. I still wonder how I managed to dupe him into marrying me.

      And yeah, I hate to sound whiny because it IS a great life but from time to time it is probably good to shed some light on some of the tough things.

      You are so sweet! I will call you next time for sure! And if I had a dog I would definitely talk to it all day long…as it is now I just talk to myself…I’m not that interesting. Perhaps post-Australia trip I will consider scooping up an animal friend.

      HA – and yes, “yabbies” – you gotta love the Aussie lingo. All sorts of great words!

      Cheers!

  7. Well, I’m pretty sure you’d have just as much (non) luck trying to find crawfish in Canada. I actually thought it was shrimp until I googled it. Is it a big shrimp or a tiny lobster? I don’t get it, but I’m really intrigued.

    And I can totally relate to not finding food. Even though there are a million new things here, it’s hard sometimes when you’re craving stuff from back home (i.e. bacon and real maple syrup….and asian food. We had a lot of great asian food (packaging only in Chinese/Japanese).

    1. HAHA!! Okay – I will make you something wish Crawfish next time you are in town. They are fresh water, first off, and kind of like mini fresh water lobsters…sort of. Hard to describe – you just have to eat one. It’s ecrivesses in French.

      Yeah, not being able to find food can be tough since it is such a connection of home! Ah well! I guess cheese will have to suffice (tough life for us, eh?). 🙂

  8. I totally, totally get this. The amount of times I’ve stomped around supermarkets in Britain, New Zealand, and Australia, getting more and more frustrated that they don’t have COMMON and BASIC ingredients like pickle relish (no, it’s not the same as pickle!) or black beans (no, don’t want to go to a specialty South American shop and pay $9 a can)…

    …well. I’m just sayin’. I know exactly where you’re coming from.

    Thanks for writing it in such a clever way, and best of lucky with your crawdads. 😉

    1. AHHHHH – BLACK BEANS! YES! Why are they SO hard to find? I can get them here at the Asian markets but they are dry…I ain’t got time for that! I need my business in a can! Le sigh. There is always something to miss.

      Glad you liked this one – I was a bit nervous to post something so whiny! 🙂

  9. Ecrevisses? I’ve been on a 3-year search for frozen corn. Canned corn I can find but frozen? I don’t think it exists in France. (Canned corn tastes fake or too much like creamed corn which, to me, looks like vomit. That’s just me.)

    I totally get you. We’re still doing renovations so imagine a Sunday afternoon when you realize that you don’t have {insert random tool here}. Ditto for Friday nights when you feel like running to the corner store for {ice cream/chocolate/amazing fattening dessert-like item that makes you fat but tastes so good} treat but the stores are closed.

    Le sigh indeed.
    Bon weekend and thanks for sharing this. It made me laugh because I, too, have been there!

    1. HA! So true – I have never seen frozen corn!! I feel like corn, in general, isn’t super popular here. Odd – it is so tasty.

      And oh gracious, Sundays make me totally insane. I don’t think I’ll ever get over them. ha!

      THanks for writing – always good to know we aren’t alone in these things! Cheers!

      1. You can buy corn on the cob in the summer, in France especially from the Arab stalls at the market. It’s not well-known – my husband had never heard of it until I bought it.

      2. Too funny – yeah, I remember making Mexican-style corn on the cob for my husband and he couldn’t believe that corn could be so tasty. (it’s with cilantro, lime, sour cream, and cheese)

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